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How Cowboys' Micah Parsons Has Ruled In The NFL — And Why He Might Change His Approach To The Giants

FRISCO, Texas — As Thursday night turned into Friday morning during the April 2021 NFL Draft, Dallas Cowboys team owner Jerry Jones repeated, “Pressure, pressure, pressure.”

The Cowboys were just hours away from picking Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons with the 12th overall draft pick, and it was a surprise decision. Draft cornerback or safety? It would have checked out a franchise whose secondary has struggled so much in recent years. Choosing a defender to destroy the pocket? Thinking about it, it might have been justified.

However, Parsons was an off-ball linebacker in college. Can he really blow up his pockets the way the Cowboys envisioned it?

Fast forward 17 months and last week the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year did just that. Last week, Parsons became the first player in NFL history to record 17 sacks in his 18 games. As a rookie, Parsons competed for 13 sacks, 83 tackles, 37 quarterback hits, and 3 forced fumbles. In his first two weeks of this NFL season, he racked up his four sacks (tied for league-high), five rushes and a total of 13 pressures, according to his focus on professional football.

“His intensity is insane,” Jones said last Tuesday on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “You don’t always get that when you evaluate a player, but boy, is his intensity.

“In this game, ‘Pressure Player City,’ if you can be a pressure player… you can do damage. And he is.

Expect Parsons to continue to make an impact at quarterback and the game when the Cowboys open the NFC East against the New York Giants on Monday night.In the hallways of Cowboys headquarters, the problem is not intention Parsons dominates, but how.

“Not just his speed, but his smarts.”

Parsons had 120 defensive snaps in two games per PFF. He attacked 95 times from the defensive line, 24 times as a downlinebacker, and his 1st time Parsons was placed second.

Even that split doesn’t quite capture the versatility Parsons has integrated into his game in his second year. He circled the outside and swam the inside on his way to the pocket. His outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware marveled at Parsons’ effectiveness on the move.

“Not just his speed, but his smarts,” Ware told Yahoo Sports by phone on Sunday. It’s a thing. Turn the corner and tear it. Now we’re starting to see him sharpen his toolbox and use other people’s moves effectively in his own way. “

Ware pointed to Parsons’ first sack of the season when Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced 3rd and 5th from the Dallas 8-yard line midway through the second quarter. As Parsons rushed in from the right, the Buccaneers kicked out left tackle Donovan Smith to block him. Parsons didn’t hesitate, instead spinning inside and reaching for Brady’s ankle to complete the sack.

Parsons dismissed Brady again on his next drive, negating another promising red zone visit. The following week in Cincinnati against the Bengals, Parsons sacked Joe Burrow for his second.

Parsons’ attack points have been changed. Head coach Mike McCarthy said the opponent’s “focus” would not.

“when [opponents] “If you play for the Dallas Cowboys, he’s probably the first player they’re talking about in the offensive room,” McCarthy said. [to] The challenge of where he is, making the opposing offensive staff work harder.

“Because, after all, he’s so destructive.”

What will happen with the Giants?

New Plan vs. New York?

The Cowboys are likely to shift Parsons’ duties again. did. The Giants’ season opener win in Tennessee.

In a meeting, the Cowboys defenders discussed Barkley’s speed, elusiveness and jump-cutting tricks. Perimeter runs and attempts on the left will be key points. Ware said that if he were the defensive coordinator, he would prefer Parsons’ right cover to account for it.

One of the keys to Micah Parsons launching a record NFL career is in how the Cowboys position him. (Photo by Cooper Neal/Getty Images)

Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said he doesn’t want Parsons to play just rushing ends.

“He’s successful at it, so there’s a temptation to keep him there,” Quinn said. You can play off the ball that you can’t step in. Having the ability to not always be where you should be adds value.”

Parsons demonstrated his worth in the Cowboys’ season opener. In his 2-for-2 late in the first quarter, Brady passed the ball to his running back Leonard his Fournette. Parsons had rushed the passers in the snap just before, but this time he looked again at the middle linebacker. As a Bucks blocker swept Fournette’s path, Parsons crossed a lane where five of his teammates were engaged. Just as Fullnett reached the open field, Parsons threw him out of bounds.

Fournette gave Dallas 17 yards of damage but fell short of scoring. Bucs settled into his goal field on a drive that seemed destined to end with his Fournette in the end his zone.

Parsons welcomes the opportunity to make such plays, whether it’s a game-changing sack or simply devastating for a teammate’s benefit.

“I don’t want to be the best player in the league,” Parsons said. “Being the best player in the league doesn’t mean getting 20 sacks. , lead your team to the championship, win and play the best defense.

“I have to make everyone around me better. I have to be one of those people I can rely on in big moments.”

Follow Jori Epstein at Yahoo Sports on Twitter @JoriEpstein Epstein